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Home > Virtual Cruises > MSC Fantasia in the Mediterranean
MSC Fantasia in the Mediterranean
Day 1: Introducing … Genoa!
Day 2: Navigating a New Ship; Winter in Barcelona
Day 3: Multinational Sea Day; Aurea Spa Experience
Day 4: Madeira and a Bit of Italy on Fantasia
Day 5: Tenerife, Canary Islands
Day 6: Lanzarote, Canary Islands
Day 7: MSC Yacht Club, Family Cruising
Day 8: The Cruise Is Over, Reflections
Related Links
MSC Fantasia ship review
MSC Fantasia Member reviews
Western Mediterranean Cruises
Western Mediterranean Messages
MSC Cruises Messages
Day 5: Thursday, Tenerife, Canary Islands
Tenerife, Canary IslandsThis morning, a misty rainstorm passed over the lush and jagged terrain of Santa Cruz, the main city on the Canary island of Tenerife, and left a rainbow of primary hues in its wake. It seemed like a good omen.

I might have been a bit too hasty.

One of the challenges of exploring the world via cruise ship is that, on a typical seven- to ten-night itinerary, you'll have four to seven ports of call on the schedule. There will always be one or two destinations that get lost, that get locked out of serious pre-trip planning, that you find you've completely forgotten about until they appear outside your cabin window.

Tenerife is just that port for me. While I spent time plotting out my days in Genoa, Barcelona and Madeira, I sort of blanked out on Tenerife, the largest of Spain's Canary Islands.

Another tricky bit about cruise travel is that you have just a day in most ports. In most cases, there's not really time to get lost or to go on adventures.

With a vague idea about renting a car and touring on our own (Teijo had spent a week here some two decades ago and wanted to relive memories), we set off from the port, looking for the Hertz office we'd been told about. By the time we'd walked aimlessly all the way to the city's north end -- with nary a tourist outlet (hotel, car rental company, etc.) in sight -- we knew that we needed a new plan.

Paco, the pharmacist at Farmacia Anaga in the Santa Cruz neighborhood of Anaga, was the angel-sent architect of our day ashore. We stopped in at the farmacia (I've found that, in Europe, if you need help in English, a pharmacist is usually a good bet) to ask for directions to Hertz. We walked out with a couple of new toothbrushes, a can of talc and a new itinerary for the day -- which included a map he'd downloaded from the Internet, a recommendation for an authentic, local tasca for lunch and directions to give to a taxi driver.

San Cristobal de la Laguna Cathedral He sent us to San Cristobal de la Laguna, designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco. It's a gorgeous old city -- dating back to the late 15th century -- that was, for a few hundred years, the island's capital. La Laguna is now Tenerife's cultural hub; there are numerous museums, historic churches (such as the Cathedral), art galleries and a handful of shops. The island's major university is also here. It's a thriving, busy place. (The Mercado was packed to the gills with Saturday-morning shoppers, and here, as in Madeira, a vast collection of locally grown flowers and plants were for sale.)

La Laguna reminded me a lot of Puerto Rico's Old San Juan, though the latter city has much more shopping and dining. But La Laguna exudes a similar ambience with its aged patina, colorfully painted and well-maintained historic houses and pedestrian-friendly cobbled streets. When in the center of town, it feels as if you've stepped onto a movie set for a flick set hundreds of years ago.

If, for a few minutes in La Laguna, we felt like we'd discovered some secret hideaway on Tenerife, that notion was quickly dispelled. Soon after, throngs of MSC Cruises passengers on ship-organized shore excursions arrived, all wearing logo stickers with bus numbers (3, 5, 7, 6, 9, etc.). Still, the town, an easy 20-minute taxi ride from port, was a perfect half-day jaunt, especially on a rainy day that made a trek to the island's lofty Mt. Teide rather unappealing.

When we got back to the ship, and the mercurial weather brought another mist-storm to the area, the resulting rainbow -- this one reaching end-to-end in the harbor in front of our ship -- spoke of a magical day in port, thanks to Paco.

Why is it that so many maitre d's in cruise ship main restaurants act as if they're doing you a favor by finding you a table? This morning, I showed up for breakfast at Red Velvet, one of two main dining venues. Though it's set-seating in the evenings, breakfast and lunch are open, which means you can sit (or, rather, be ordered to sit) anywhere.

MSC Fantasia's Dining Room Red Velvet As I stood at the entrance, a huddle of maitre d's discussed who knows what (the weather?) while ignoring my existence. Finally, after I said, "excuse me, do I just seat myself?" one turned around, beckoned me to follow and pointed to an eight-top, at which five fellow passengers were sitting, speaking in German. "May I sit at a table by myself?" I asked him. I didn't want to intrude on the other passengers (with whom I may or may not have been able to converse), and I really, really wanted to enjoy a quiet breakfast with a good book.

"No!" he barked. "We're full." Quite visibly, the restaurant was not.

The issue of hospitality, as it relates to cruise ship maitre d's, is not, alas, limited to MSC Fantasia on this particular morning. Just off the top of my head, I can remember seriously rude maitre d's on ships ranging from the brand-new Celebrity Solstice (the service at Grand Epernay, its main restaurant, was a nightmare) to Carnival Liberty. I don't even want to remember an incident on Celebrity Century, which I wrote about on Cruise Critic a few years back. I've heard similar tales from numerous other travelers. Treating passengers as if they're invisible. Issuing out-of-hand dismissals. Barking orders ("sit here!"). Ignoring requests.

How did this type of passenger "service" become pervasive in cruise travel? How is it that these crewmembers are permitted to behave in such a manner? How is it that cabin attendants, across the board, are generally excellent, but maitre d's are often unpleasant? Why don't cruise lines put a stop to it?

What about you? Have you had a run-in with a maitre d'? Tell us about it here.

MSC Fantasia Theater Those who can't keep their eyes propped open until midnight (or thereabouts) are missing out on something special on MSC Fantasia. This is a ship that really seems to bloom at night; every lounge has some kind of entertainment, and the Theater L'Avanguardia, true to its name, features musical and acrobatic shows that are somewhat otherworldly. (Even a straightforward classical concert, by a trio of women, featured dramatic stage-dressing.) In the L'Insolito Lounge, energetic dancing rules. One night, passengers were taught the cha cha, and on another -- which I caught on an in-house television channel -- there was a dubious recreation from "Grease."

The only place that's even remotely quiet in the immediate post-dinner timeframe is the Liquid Disco, though not for long. The music doesn't start much before 11:30 p.m. On one visit this week, my night owl of a husband told me that, by midnight, the dance floor was jammed -- with kids. It was family hour, he said; parents and children danced wildly while "observers," all younger than 1 year (MSC is one of the few cruise lines to welcome kids younger than six months), slept soundly in strollers.

--First (Tenerife) and last (stage show) photos are courtesy of Heinbloed.
Day 4: Madeira and a Bit of Italy on Fantasia red arrow Day 6: Lanzarote, Canary Islands

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